In a political climate fraught with radically clashing ideals (London had its glitzy bi-annual fashion week interrupted this weekend by activists protesting in the streets for sustainability and climate change), one could argue that the 1950s are alive and well all the way across the pond. Designers took their sartorial cues from the unease of the post-war period as well, by parading the whimsical '50s bubble dress down the runways. Erdem, Simone Rocha, JW Anderson, and even Riccardo Tisci's Burberry took part in the exuberant aesthetic, dressing their models in skirts and dresses that billowed with tremendous volume down the runways.
The memorable silhouette was first popularised at the advent of post-World War II social conservatism and was comprised of a sheath dress made voluminous by layers of organza or tulle. The dress resembled a protective cocoon and was a design that both Pierre Cardin and Hubert de Givenchy experimented with in 1954 and 1958, respectively. The "bubble dress," it was so aptly dubbed, quickly became trendy cocktail attire during the late 1950s and into the Swinging Sixties. Yves Saint Laurent for Dior later riffed on the design, crafting a dropped waist dress and bubble skirt in 1959. And, as fashion trends tend to go, the '80s saw a resurgence of the bubble silhouette with designer Christian Lacroix debuting a dramatic poof skirt for haute couture.
Modern-day designers have forgone the traditional tulle for silky, draped fabrics that traverse with ease across the catwalks. In addition to Renaissance-era Juilet sleeves and a Cardin-esque wool coat for Fall/Winter 2019, Jonathan Anderson showcased a polka dot-patterned olive taffeta bubble dress to add a dash of whimsy to his otherwise streamlined and contemporary womenswear collection. Anderson, who has always deftly played with textiles and shapes with ease, dabbled in couture-like exaggeration this season, proving that he's not afraid to experiment or move the needle forward.
Meanwhile, Tisci decided to offset his new cool kid, grunge-y aesthetic for his era of Burberry (in the show notes, he referred to the collection as The Tempest in a reference to British art and culture), with his own version of the bubble dress. In addition to deconstructed outerwear, corset tops, and '90s references to rave culture, Tisci also sent Hiandra Martinez down the runway in his version of the little black bubble dress, complete with leather gloves and billowing sleeves. It was an unexpected, yet welcomed twist on the rest of his collection rife with streetwear, puffer coats, and bomber jackets.
Erdem and Simone Rocha have made florals, flirty frocks, and unabashed femininity longtime hallmarks of their collections and yet, perhaps by pure coincidence, both decided to present bubble dresses for Fall/Winter 2019. Erdem Moralioglu unveiled a litany of tiered chiffon gowns that swept the runway with much fanfare, but his bubble dresses (adorned with dramatic pussy bow necklines) in floral flamingo pink truly stole the show. Rocha also went with patterned balloon skirts, some in periwinkle blue and others in a decadent golden brocade, for her Fall collection. Although the '50s-inspired aesthetic pervaded both presentations, Moralioglu and Rocha ultimately found their inspiration in two vastly different women: Principessa Orietta Doria Pamphilj, who lived under Mussolini's fascist Italy and French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. Perhaps it was also the latest embrace of brazen romanticism and extravagance, as seen in Pierpaolo Piccioli's latest couture collection for Valentino Spring 2019, that has encouraged designers to dip their toes into the past and show something fanciful, if not unapologetically girly to the masses. If anything, it's even more fodder for the old adage that fashion is nothing more than a series of cycles.
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